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  • COLLEGE FOOTBALL

    Less flash, more menace for Ducks 'D'

    While the Oregon offense gains well-deserved attention, the defense has proven to be stout
  • Second-ranked Oregon's bewitching offense typically grabs the headlines, just like the Heisman Trophy is usually handed out to a quarterback or running back from an elite program.
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  • Second-ranked Oregon's bewitching offense typically grabs the headlines, just like the Heisman Trophy is usually handed out to a quarterback or running back from an elite program.
    And the attention is well deserved.
    The Ducks lead the nation in rushing (425 yards per game), are second in total offense (664.5 ypg) and third in scoring offense (62.5 points per game). A-list stars Marcus Mariota and De'Anthony Thomas have already accounted for 11 touchdowns to highlight a spectacular 2-0 start.
    But defense wins BCS championships. For SEC teams anyway.
    This year, defensive coordinator Nick Aliotti's deep and menacing unit might prove to be the perfect complement to the quick-strike offense. Through two games, Oregon is tied for seventh in scoring defense (6.5 ppg).
    The Ducks, despite rotating freely and giving the next generation an opportunity to gain some early season experience, haven't allowed any second-half points and only 13 points total against Nicholls (66-3) and Virginia (59-10).
    "Oregon is a great defense and a great team," Virginia quarterback David Watford said after throwing three interceptions against the Ducks on Saturday at Scott Stadium. "They're No. 2 in the nation for a reason."
    After watching film of the game during the flight from Charlottesville, Va., back to Eugene, coach Mark Helfrich said weak-side linebacker Derrick Malone — who led the team in tackles for the second consecutive week with 12 — was the defensive "star of the game" from the coaches' point of view.
    Defensive end Tony Washington also stood out after finishing with 11/2 sacks and a forced fumble. Terrance Mitchell, Rodney Hardrick and Dior Mathis all had interceptions.
    The Duck defense, which often spends the majority of the game on the field because Mariota and Co. score so expeditiously, is tied for 37th in total defense (320.5 ypg). A more telling statistic: Oregon held Virginia to 3.5 yards per play after limiting Nicholls to 3.9 yards per play.
    Oregon is also tied for fifth in turnover margin (plus 6) with no miscues by the offense to date.
    U
    TENNESSEE NEXT: The Ducks will host Tennessee on Saturday at Autzen Stadium in what is easily the most intriguing of the team's three nonconference games. The Vols (2-0) are coming off a 52-20 victory over Western Kentucky in which they forced five turnovers over a six-play span.
    "I've never seen anything like that before, I don't know if that has ever happened before," Helfrich said.
    First-year coach Butch Jones has breathed some life into the proud program, which has been down in recent years. The Ducks drubbed the Vols 48-13 during the 2010 season in Knoxville.
    "I think Tennessee is Tennessee," Helfrich said when asked about the challenges the visitors from the SEC will present. "Iconic football program. From a recruiting standpoint, they're always top of the tops. They're always going to have talent."
    Although comparative scores don't necessarily mean much, Nicholls was able to bounce back from its 63-point loss in Eugene by pulling off another FCS-over-FBS upset on Saturday with a 27-23 victory at Western Michigan.
    And BYU, the team Virginia beat in its opener, upset No. 15 Texas, 40-21.
    U
    DUCKS GET A NO. 1: Oregon's impressive start to the season has improved the team's position in both polls.
    After the opener, the Ducks moved past Ohio State and into the No. 2 spot in the Associated Press poll. This week Oregon remains No. 2, well behind No. 1 Alabama, but received a first-place vote from Dave Reardon of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
    Helfrich's peers, or the SIDs who vote for them, voted Oregon No. 2 in the latest USA Today Coaches poll behind Alabama and ahead of Ohio State. The Ducks also received one first-place vote from the coaches.
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